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28 May 2024

Four Trends Shaping the Global Critical Mineral Sector

Four Trends Shaping the Global Critical Mineral Sector
Accelerating clean energy deployment is driving a surge in critical minerals demand, which is expected to double by 2040. This demand is poised to significantly impact the global mining sector, particularly in Africa, which possesses substantial reserves of essential minerals used in clean energy technologies.

EVs Drive Demand

Global demand for critical minerals increased by 30% in 2023, driven primarily by a surge in electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing and deployment. The sales share of EVs is expected to rise from 18% today to 65% in 2030. Some of the key minerals necessary for the manufacturing of EV batteries include lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel and graphite.

With its substantial mineral reserves, Africa plays a crucial role in meeting this demand. The continent holds approximately two-thirds of global cobalt reserves, 30% of lithium, 20% of graphite and over 30% of manganese​​.

Combined Market Value Set to Double by 2040

The combined market value of key energy transition minerals – including copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and rare earth elements – is expected to more than double from $325 billion in 2023 to $770 billion by 2040. Copper, a vital component in electrical systems, is expected to see the most significant increase in market value.

Africa’s market value for mined output is projected to increase by 65% by 2030. Notable contributors include Guinea, which boasts the largest bauxite reserves in the world; Gabon, which serves as the second-largest global producer of manganese; and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which supplies over 70% of the world’s cobalt.

Increases in Global Investment

Investment in critical mineral mining grew by 10% in 2023. To stay on track with global energy and climate trends, the sector will require an estimated $800 billion by 2040. Recent investments in Africa include Abu Dhabi conglomerate International Holding Company allocating approximately $1 billion towards mining acquisitions this year.

Japan and the UK announced joint plans last September to invest in Africa’s critical minerals to stabilize existing supply chains. They will cooperate on developing mines in various African countries and establishing a framework for economic and energy security. Meanwhile, Chinese mining conglomerate Sinomine Resource Group completed a $180 million acquisition last July of the Bikita Lithium Mine – the largest mine in Zimbabwe.

Supply Diversification

Efforts to diversify the supply of critical minerals are gaining momentum, especially in Europe and the U.S. These regions are investing in African mining projects to reduce dependency on dominant suppliers like China. Such diversification efforts aim to mitigate risks associated with geopolitical tensions and supply chain disruptions.

Meanwhile, EU partnerships with the DRC and Zambia are poised to boost local industries and secure critical materials. The EU is currently finalizing agreements to support the development of local value chains in Africa, which serves as part of a broader strategy under its €300 billion Global Gateway investment program. The program includes infrastructure developments, such as the Lobito Corridor railway, which is poised to facilitate mineral transport across Africa​.